One of Hollywood’s most iconic movie images is that of a slightly inebriated Rick Blaine slumped over a table. We see a shot glass as Rick smokes, lamenting the fact that “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” The cigarette smoke curls up in the black and white scene, setting the mood of the greatest romantic classic of all times.
Granted, Bogey died of lung cancer at the age of 58, but would the banning of smoking in the movies have prevented his cancer death? My father’s brother died of esophageal cancer at the age of 70. He had never smoked a day in his life. Their cousin died at the age of 60 of lung cancer. He had never smoked a day in his life, either. Fact is, I know more people who have died of lung cancer who have not smoked than have.
I have never smoked a cigarette. I never even experimented on them as a kid. I don’t like cigarettes because they smell so vile. Stale cigarette smoke has been known to make me want to barf. Because of the “sin” taxesI can’t imagine all that money literally going up in smoke. I rather like the idea that smoking is now banned in most bars. There was nothing worse than going in a place and coming out reeking of stale smoke. I don’t mind the ban, except when I go to Tombstone. Then, I want to go in the old saloons and smoke an occasional cigar. (Yes, I like to smoke cigars).
I come from a non-smoking family. Neither set of my grandparents smoked, nor did my parents. My sister and her ex do not smoke, though the ex does do the occasional cigar. When my two nieces and nephew came into the world they were literally indoctrinated about the evils of smoking. They were rather cute telling people who smoked how it was going to kill them. When visiting their grandparents, they were constantly on the case of a friend who smoked. It would kill him.
Fast forward fifteen years. All three smoke. None are compulsive about it, but they do smoke. All the lectures, the brainwashing, the “please don’t smoke” discussions were useless. I have friends who have offspring the same age. None of them smoke. The interesting part of the story is that their parents never bothered with the anti-smoking lessons. They did not smoke, but then as the tail end of the Baby Boom generation, we don’t do a lot of smoking. Our children do. As a whole, the Greatest Generation did a tremendous amount of smoking.
Maybe smoking is a generational habit. Now kids are smoking. None of the lectures matter. The cautionary tales don’t matter. Neither do those warning labels on cigarettes. They’ve seen the videos, the Blood on the Highway warnings about how deadly smoking is. Everyone knows the drill, yada, yada, yada. A person is either going to smoke or they aren’t. Peer pressure has more to do with young people’s choices than all the lectures from all of the parents in all of the world.
The CDC, which has evolved from a once great, cutting-edge agency policing the world for such hideous diseases as ebola, Rift Valley fever, and bubonic plague, is now in the movie censorship business. They are now wasting taxpayer money by counting the number of smoking “incidents’ in movies. According to the CDC “top grossing” films depicted 1,935 “incidents” of smoking. In 2005 there were 3,967 such “incidents”.
Evidently, according to the CDC, kids who watch all those top-grossing, 3-D, comic strip movies are the ones most likely to try sneaking a smoke after a movie. Duh! They are kids. They were sneaking cigarettes in the restrooms of the old movie theater in Seneca, South Carolina when I was a kid. Granted Miss Goody Two Shoes did not, but even my non-smoking mother did the same thing when she was a teen at a movie.
It is called growing up, a rite of passage, and life. No matter how many members of Congress, including Edward J. Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Joseph R. Pitts, a Pennsylvania Republican, are going to be able to stop it. Not even the R rating they want on any movie that contains smoking is going to stop it. Not all of the education in all of the world is going to stop it.
It is literally a waste of breath and a waste of money. Then again, that it not what this is all about. Please, find one person in this country who does not know the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. I dare you to find just one person who doesn’t. The anti-smoking campaign has been going on as long as I can remember. It has saved lives. Perhaps though the greatest anti-smoking campaign are the high taxes.
This is not about smoking. It is about the constant encroachment of the nanny state into every aspect of our lives. The food police tells us that Chinese food is bad for our health and that we should not eat fried foods. (So does my indigestion). We aren’t to drink soda because of childhood obesity and the threat of diabetes. The nanny state is not going to admit to being the primary cause of childhood obesity. Neither is the Department of Education and their constant demands for better test scores.
Now the nanny state wants to ban images of smoking from the silver screen. Are they going to go into the cutting room and snip that wonderful scene in Now Voyager where Paul Henreid lights two cigarettes in his mouth and hands one to Bette Davis? It was not about smoking. The scene was symbolic for what we did not see on camera. The world has changed. Today it is perfectly acceptable for the film couple to do what was then not seen on camera, but they just can’t smoke afterward.
The next thing you know, they are going to want to ban fat women like your humble correspondent from the silver screen and blame us for society’s ills. Oh, wait, they basically already have.